Nature is key - unlock your wellbeing" was the theme of New Zealand's Mental Health Awareness Week, which finished last week.
Taking time to unwind in nature, whether it's getting blown away on windswept South Beach, walking the dog alongside the Whanganui River, or tramping in the goblin forest of Mount Taranaki, is simply good for your soul.
This week is Conservation Week and its theme is "love my backyard".
Even pulling weeds in my overgrown garden is communing with nature, and my front garden could do with some more loving attention.
I like the simplicity of this theme. Sometimes getting out into nature comes with the sense that it needs to be challenging and dramatic and involve specialised outdoor gear. It doesn't.
Choosing to walk to town instead of driving, and looking up and around, taking in the trees and the clouds, is a little break in itself.
For me, taking time to smell the roses (literally) is a brilliant way to work on my mental health.
The brain shifts gear and slows down. I briefly stop multi-tasking and just focus on each foot in front of the other.
I walked home from a Whanganui Literary Festival event last weekend and got caught in a passing shower. Luckily, I could shelter under a tree that, largely, kept me dry.
It also meant I spent a moment observing the world, instead of rushing through it, primed up by the poetry event I had just attended.
It was a panel discussion on Poetry and Place, facilitated by local poet Airini Beautrais.
It featured New Zealand's poet laureate, Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh, who was commissioned to write a poem for the Queen. Entitled Unity, the poem discusses how we're all connected. An excerpt:
what you do, affects me
what we do, affects the sea
land, wildlife - take the honeybee
nature's model of unity
pollinating from flower to seed
bees thrive in hives keeping their queen
unity keeps them alive, keeps them buzzing
they're key to our fruit and vege supplies
but parasitic attacks and pesticides
threaten the bee, then you and me
it's all connected - that's unity.
Whanganui iwi have a well-known saying, reinforcing our interdependence: "Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au" (I am the river and the river is me).
The relationship between the natural world and people is intrinsic.
It is deeper than our country's tourism reputation being based on New Zealand's great outdoors being a big, beautiful, marketable playground.
We need a healthy world to be healthy people, mentally, physically and spiritually.
One person who understands these interconnections is Dr Athol Steward, clinical director at Whanganui Hospital. Athol is undertaking a 400km walk from Raglan to Whanganui as a protest against seabed mining.
He has set a target of $10,000 to fundraise for Kiwis Against Seabed Mining's appeal costs.
Please support him via www.givealittle.co.nz (Walk the Walk for our Ocean) and mark your diaries for November 12, when he's due to walk the last stretch of coastline home into Whanganui.
Whether you're marking Mental Health Awareness Week or celebrating Conservation Week, take a walk outside today and reconnect with a bit of your backyard.
■Nicola Patrick is a councillor at Horizons Regional Council, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru and is exploring a social enterprise hub for Whanganui. A mum of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.